Nico Hulkenberg could become Mercedes’ third and reserve driver in 2011.
Following a shining formative career with titles in A1, European F3 and the F1 feeder series GP2, the 23-year-old rookie has stumbled at the first hurdle in formula one by losing his Williams race seat for 2011.
Efforts to secure potential comparative seats with Renault and Force India look set to founder, leaving manager Willi Weber reportedly believing a top test cockpit is the best remaining alternative.
Weber told Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport that it is a more attractive option to be “the third man in a top team than the first man with a backmarker”.
And during a season with a straggler, “you learn nothing and your career is going backwards”, according to Weber.
But Mercedes chief Norbert Haug played down the Hulkenberg rumours.
“There is currently no contact,” he said, whilst praising the young German’s potential.
“His car didn’t drive itself to pole position in Brazil. A GP2 champion and someone on pole in formula one must of course be very capable,” said Haug.
And he disagrees with Weber that a top test role is better than a race seat with a smaller team.
“If he wants to keep his career going in a straight line, he would be better off racing with a second or even third-rate team,” advised Haug.
© RIF | GMM